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Real, Imaginary Beasts | Part Two

A Moon dog Adventure

By Kale RossPublished 5 months ago 10 min read

The bright red paw indicators led directly across the unstable trunk to the other side of the massive crevasse.

Luna swallowed hard.

Commander Riggs was secretly terrified of heights. An odd fear for an astronaut to have, but she had it, and it was real. Apparently, rocketing at twenty-five thousand miles per hour through the Earth’s atmosphere into the vacuum of space didn’t seem to bother her, but balancing on a corroding trunk that wobbled when she tested it, over an other-worldly death drop, freaked her out pretty good.

A loud crash of thick brush erupted from the woods behind her back, shuttering the vibrations of the wind, and writhing the ground beneath her feet. It was the precise motivation she needed to face her fear head on, and cross the bridge.

She had no intention of getting any closer looks to the beasts that hunted her.

She planted her right boot on the edge of the log, followed by her left. Gathering balance, Luna quickly crept across the bridge — keeping her formation tight to Orion’s.

A sudden whoosh of heavy wings slapped at the air behind Luna’s back. Knowing what it was, and daring not to turn around to challenge it, Luna broke out into a full out sprint.

The log bridge bobbled beneath her momentum, and fought back by slowly rolling to the left. Luna could feel the fatal shift beneath her boots, so she leaned as much of her body weight to the right in an attempt to keep herself from tumbling over the side.

With a little less than five feet to go, jagged talons tore into each one of Luna’s shoulders, puncturing her suit, as well as flesh. She screamed, but it was muffled by the blistering screeches of the dark gray vulture that was slowly lifting her free from the log — which had snapped from her shifting weight, crashing into the depths below.

Luna fought for her life as she felt her feet leave the surface of the trunk. She punched, pinched, and yanked at the bloody talons, but they were solid, and locked. All she could do was use her body weight to counteract the bird’s ascending flight.

At first it seemed to work. She leaned forward, and kicked her legs back and forth as hard as she could. After a few moments of exercising her defensive strategy, they were safely hovering over a soft patch of light-gray grass and leaves.

She stretched out her legs, trying to make contact with the ground — hoping that the vulture would let go momentarily, allowing her the opportunity to go on the offensive.

Inches above the soil, the bird gave an impressive yet disheartening heave of its powerful wings, and together as one, they shot high up into the air.

Fighting the urge to black out from the overwhelming sensations of pain and fear, a solid, dark mass slammed into the abdomen of the vulture.

The talons instantly released their hold, and Luna fell ten feet to the grass below.

Her crude landing was fortunately cushioned by a large chunk of soft brush. Rolling herself free from the tangled pile of leaves and sticks, Luna immediately searched the skies for the winged predator who had stabbed its massive talons deep into her trapezius muscles.

Relief enveloped her when she found nothing but fluffy gray clouds slowly bobbing through the sky. Standing still, she focused her attention on the sounds around her. All she could hear was the sharp hissing of wind, the rustling of crunchy leaves being displaced by the cool breeze, and the dramatic pounding of her heartbeat. The deafening whomping of leathery wings had fallen silent. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still out there. Lurking. Stalking.

The vulture was gone. For now.

Unfortunately, the comforting wave washed away once her adrenaline subsided, sending searing pain cascading from her wounds — setting her nerves on fire. She was bleeding pretty bad, but what was more concerning were the gaping punctures in her suit.

Because their unexpected arrival was greeted with a mob of alien creatures, Luna had no time to thoroughly test the air to determine if it was breathable. Her mind raced a thousand miles a minute at the thought of being fatally poisoned by toxic fumes, or having her internal organs painfully shut down by an infection caused by the injection of some nasty alien venom from the talons of the winged beast.

Fortunately, her helmet seemed to be functioning without any issues — which meant she could still communicate with Orion, and the visor was unscathed — which meant she could still locate, and follow his illuminated paw prints.

She was not ready to die. Her work was incomplete, she missed her family, and she needed to find Orion, and a way to get back to earth before the army of gray monsters found them again. But the odds of the worst case scenario playing out were quickly stacking up with every passing second.

Luckily, the sounds of snapping twigs and crunching leaves saved her from twirling into the depths of her mind’s darkening rabbit hole — but it also meant that something was approaching.

On her hands and knees, Luna twirled her body around in circles trying to find the source of the rustling.

She quickly spotted it.

The four-legged beast was pacing back and forth against the shadowy tree line of the new forest. Its short fur was pitch black, save for a white stripe stretching from its tail to the bridge of the nose. Its eyes were a soft blend of mahogany and canary, and each of the four paws had splashes of white and light brown.

Unfortunately for Luna, the Labrador mix appeared as a muted pallet of light and dark grays, with bright, luminescent eyes.

She was staring at a dog. An extremely cute, and well nourished dog.

It was a sight that would have made sense if the dog she was looking at was Orion.

But it was not. This was a new dog. A strange dog. An alien dog.

How was that possible?

The lab barked once at Luna, then turned and disappeared into the trees.

Being Orion’s handler for years, and having dogs her entire life, Luna knew that the bark was far from malicious. The dog wanted her to follow.

The mysterious lab also seemed to be heading in the same direction of Orion’s illuminated paw prints. She clung to that with everything she had left.

Considering she was alone, possibly dying, and certainly being watched by the teething horde which had ominously fallen silent. She had no choice but to follow the lab.

Staying on the ridge meant dying. That was something Luna could not do.

Before heading out, she pressed two fingers to the receiver on her left wrist, and tested the suit’s comm link.

“Orion. Come in, over.”

Static rang in her ears.

She tried again.

“Orion, bud. Can you hear me? Over?”

More static.

“Orion! Please. If you can hear my voice, bark as loud as you can. Over.”

Luna listened carefully for a response, but continued to only hear a mixture of static, wind, birds, and an occasional moan coming from the dark, south woods behind her.

Fear for the well-being of Orion provided her with the adrenaline she needed in order to enter the northern woodland — which she did, staggering with every step.

She did her best to keep up pace with the lab, but it was too quick, and she was in too much pain. Fortunately, Orion’s illuminated breadcrumb trail allowed her to stay on the correct course, as well as the lab continuously popping back into view from the shadows to check on her progress.

After about fifteen minutes of leading, stopping, and slowly following, Luna came face to face with a once, thickly concealed gaping hole in the side of a sky scraping wall of dense gray stone.

“Not another cave,” she mumbled to herself in despair.

The lab had disappeared, but Orion’s paw prints still shone true, and they led in the one direction she did not want to go. Trying to trick her mind, she looked all around the mouth of the cave for any sign of other dog paw tracks, which could indicate that the lab she was following decided to take an alternative route.

She found none.

Then heard the one sound she prayed not to hear.

A bark. An echoing bark from inside of the cave.

Luna’s first step inside of the dark cave made her spine ignite with a nerve altering pain, similar to the sciatic pain she suffered from a week into astronaut training.

She convinced herself it was mental. But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was her sciatica returning, and deciding to shoot upwards, instead of down towards her foot. Maybe it wasn’t the sciatica at all, and it was in-fact an infection from the talons of her winged attacker. Maybe it was her old college anxiety, coming to finish what it started.

Possibility after possibility flooded her brain, which also flooded her motor skills. She was frozen within the threshold of the cave. One foot in, and one foot out. Another bark, this time deeper from within the tunnel, pounded off of the stone walls as a powerful echo, reminding her of the mission.

Find Orion.

The further she crept, the darker it got.

After crawling ten feet, Luna activated her helmet’s LED light array. Six polycarbonate light bulbs fastened to the crown of her helmet boomed to life, uncovering the alien properties of this strange, gray cave system.

The damp ceiling rose, fell, in short increments, and curved like a serpent stalking its dinner. In the low points, she could make out shiny streaks, and clusters of discoloration throughout the stone ceiling, indicating the presence of precious alien substances.

The higher peaks of the ceiling shifted and bobbed as the tendrils of her helmet’s lights brushed against them.

She hadn’t been much of a cave explorer in her life, but she was intelligent enough to know what creatures tended to dwell in the remote, high corners of damp caves.


Making a safe choice to not disturb the upside-down, hanging, alien, night birds, Luna focused her helmet forward, and towards the ground. She could not afford another injury.

The sixth bend in the tunnel collapsed nearly two feet in width, forcing Luna to walk at an angle. It was uncomfortable, yet it allowed her to get an intimate look at the impossible carvings, and glyphs chiseled into the walls.

Illuminated by her helmet’s LED display, hundreds, if not thousands of four-legged creatures, of different shapes and sizes decorated each side of the corridor’s walls from floor to ceiling. At first she thought they represented some type of hyena mutant, but the closer she examined them, she began to realize something much less alarming.

They weren’t representations of hyenas, or even of a mutated version.

The closer she got to the next bend, the clearer, and more detailed the artwork became — almost as if they were added much later than the ones at the beginning.

These archaic drawings were of dogs.

She saw small headed creatures with elongated bodies, and tiny feet, clearly depicting Dachshunds. Weaved in between, she saw what looked like fat and fluffy Samoyeds, muscular Rottweilers, long-haired retrievers, crisp and clean Labradors, tiny and round-shaped pigs, which she quickly re-identified as bulldogs, due to the squiggly lines in the face. She saw spotted bodies, which had to be Dalmatians. There were even drawings of short-legged bodies with long floppy ears. Luna easily identified these as bloodhounds.

The more she looked, the more breeds she recognized.

What did that mean, and how was that possible?

She was only able to land her rambling mind on one, sensible conclusion. Somehow, humans from earth lived inside of this cave system, and drew these images to express their love for dogs.

It was a conclusion that made no real sense, considering her circumstances, but it’s the truth she told herself to keep her mind, and anxiety from disconnecting entirely.

thrillerShort StoryMysteryFantasyExcerptAdventure

About the Creator

Kale Ross

Author | Poet | Dog Dad | Nerd

Find my published poetry, and short story books here!

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